What truths are Moses proclaiming when he encourages Joshua to lead God’s people into the Promised Land? Why does Moses say these words to Joshua as the mantle of leadership is passing? How can you apply these truths to your life?
The Scriptural Address:
Moses is speaking to the entire assembly including Joshua in Deuteronomy 31:1-8 BSB
1When Moses had finished speaking these words to all Israel, 2he said to them, “I am now a hundred and twenty years old; I am no longer able to come and go, and the LORD has said to me, ‘You shall not cross the Jordan.’
3The LORD your God Himself will cross over ahead of you. He will destroy these nations before you, and you will dispossess them. Joshua will cross ahead of you, as the LORD has said. 4And the LORD will do to them as He did to Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites, when He destroyed them along with their land.
5The LORD will deliver them over to you, and you must do to them exactly as I have commanded you. 6Be strong and courageous; do not be afraid or terrified of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.”
7Then Moses called for Joshua and said to him in the presence of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you will go with this people into the land that the LORD swore to their fathers to give them, and you shall give it to them as an inheritance. 8The LORD Himself goes before you; He will be with you. He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid or discouraged.”
Context and Meaning
The name Joshua is the Hebrew name “Yehoshua” which means God delivers or The Lord is my Salvation. The name Jesus comes from this same Hebrew name! Joshua is Moses’ assistant, one of the two scouts (Caleb the other) who gives a favorable report and demonstrates faith in God’s promise. God informs Moses that he will not get to lead the people into the Promised Land because he “broke faith.” Why did God punish Moses?
Why did God curse Israel with forty-years of wandering in the desert?
God is establishing Joshua as the leader to follow Moses. God promises two vital promises in this passage:
- God will go before His people and destroy the inhabitants
- God will not forsake or leave Joshua or His people–it’s important to recall that God has condemned the previous generation to death in the desert (excepting Joshua and Caleb). When the people disobeyed God by refusing to trust and depend on Him, God kept them out of Promised Land until next generation was ready.
Recall that proper Bible study, interpretation, and application requires that we consider
1.the audience: Joshua and the Hebrews gathered together,
2.the setting: Moses’ final instructions, pivotal transition from desert wandering to entering Promised Land,
3.the purpose of text/teaching: preparing Joshua and people for next stage of journey, and
4.understand that God is speaking through Moses to a specific group of people at a specific time to encourage them to trust and obey God.
The following truths apply to those who follow God. First, God will instruct us on how He would have us to live and follow Him. God graciously provides us with Holy Spirit, His Living Word, and a community of believers to walk this journey. Secondly, God will provide us with the strength and courage to obey Him as He leads. The key here is “how He leads.” God promises to go before us, guide us, and bring victory.
Success and Victory: On God’s Terms
Understand that God defines victory and success in a manner that is unique to His nature and character! Consider that God calls us to live for Him, serve as ministers of reconciliation, and ultimately become the righteousness of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:14-21). This doesn’t mean that we will fully understand the extent of success. If you examine Moses and other men of faith, they weren’t successful (in the world’s sense). For example, Moses confronts Pharaoh and leads the people out of bondage in Egypt, yet fails to lead them into the conquest of the Promised land. Moses sins and dishonors God’s Holy Name. Was Moses a failure? In a sense yes, but also a resounding success. Moses walks with God and fulfills God’s call. Deuteronomy 34:10-12 proclaims:
10Since that time, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face— 11no prophet who did all the signs and wonders that the LORD sent Moses to do in the land of Egypt to Pharaoh and to all his officials and all his land, 12and no prophet who performed all the mighty acts of power and awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.
What if Moses had ignored the burning bush and walked away? Moses gives multiple “excuses” to God (Exodus Chapters 3-4) for not being the one to lead the Hebrews out of Egypt. Moses had to leave his current position as a shepherd of sheep in the desert. I discuss this more in the previous posts:
One sees a similar situation with Elijah who confronts the false prophets but flees to a cave and despairs of his life, call, and ministry. King David was a “man after God’s own heart” but commits adultery, murder, and fractures his family. Consider the life and ministry of Jesus, Our Savior. He didn’t gain Judah’s freedom from Rome nor establish a governmental kingdom as expected. He died, rose again then ascended into heaven leaving the disciples behind awaiting His future return. What really matters then? How might God define success and victory?
God defines success as becoming more like Christ, specially conformed to His nature! God desires that we seek His Kingdom and Righteousness first! Depending and trusting upon Him to accomplish His purposes is success! God’s Kingdom is eternal and different from the world/physical kingdoms of this age. Regardless of how our lives may seem to us or others, we will be found faithful and obedient to the extend of our faith, hope, love, and trust in Him!
God’s Instructions to Joshua
In Joshua Chapter One, God instructs Joshua:
5No one shall stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so will I be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.
6Be strong and courageous, for you shall give these people the inheritance of the land that I swore to their fathers I would give them.
7Above all, be strong and very courageous. Be careful to observe all the law that My servant Moses commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may prosper wherever you go. 8This Book of the Law must not depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. For then you will prosper and succeed in all you do.
9Have I not commanded you to be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
I want you to recognize the repetition in these verses. First Moses then God Himself speaks to Joshua. Notice the pattern of instruction:
- First, the promise of God’s presence,
- Second, the promise of God’s guidance (God’s Law) and prosperity (success in terms of completing God’s mission),
- Third, the command to be strong and courageous, to not be afraid or discouraged!
Why does God command Joshua to not be afraid or discouraged? God is promising to be present with Joshua! God promises the same truth to us as well. God’s Holy Spirit comes into our lives and guides us. We will face trials and difficulties as well as times of uncertainty and doubt. God’s presence is what matters! For more information on how to apply these wonderful truths, check the link below:
Remember that these promises are primarily to Joshua, following Christ doesn’t mean wealth or prosperity in an earthly sense or for our glory. Nor does God promise us that others won’t oppose or persecute us. God’s purpose(s) for modern believers excludes a military conquest and destruction of the “canaanites” around us. God had a purpose in the military conquests of Joshua and Judges. However, that historical conquest and judgement is over.
Why did I choose the Latin inscription Omnia Vincit Amor ? I need a daily reminder that God’s Love Overcomes all–especially the hard, lost hearts. God redeems souls and calls the lost to repentance. We must speak out against the evils of our age, but do so in a manner that leads others to God’s grace and truth. How will the lost hear and see the Gospel if not through us?
Why didn’t Jesus strike down the Pharisees, Sadducees, Priests, and pagan Romans? Why doesn’t God strike down the tyrants and evil doers of our age? God has a plan beyond human reasoning. He alone is the Author of History and Righteous, Holy Judge of all humans. We do well to remember His grace, compassion, and lovingkindness toward us sinners. God’s grace and mercy softens our cold, hard hearts. Our change is apparent in how we love and serve those around us.
May God increase your courage and dependence on His Presence in your life! For His glory and your encouragement, I write these words.